In Tunisian coffee is not just a simple drink, which you quickly pick up and drink while running to the next meeting. There is no room for hasts and stress. Unlike the global “to go” trend in Tunisian you still take your coffee sitting down, sip by sip, give vent to one’s thoughts or share them in community. Drinking coffee is not about having the fanciest drink with a special flavour, sitting in the most famous café or only having an energizer.
In Tunisian coffee is part of the culture and drinking it is a social event sometimes even a ritual.
Today the traditional Tunisian coffee is an unique flower-coffee-mixture which combines the Ottoman and Andalusian influences.
In the 16th century, during the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish brought the coffee in the region. That is how it happened, that in 1846 even more than half of the cafés were run by Turks. Due to the Ottoman influence, today the traditional Tunisian coffee is prepared in the “Zézoua” a pot which is similar to the Turkish coffee pot.
The french colonialists introduced the modern western way to drink coffee. They cultivated the “Dahors”, the street cafés and refined the coffee with the flowing aroma by adding geranium, rose or orange blossom water.
In fact, it is claimed that coffee was brought much earlier to Tunisian by the ascetic Aboulhassen Chedli (1196-1258). Even today a coffee can be called “Chedlia” (derived from the name of the holy man).
Chedlis disciples build the “Zaouia of Sidi Belhassen Chedli” and there they used the invigorating effect of coffee to continue the nightly prayer cycles. That’s how drinking coffee became a ritual and one could say that in Tunis, with Chedli, the coffee culture and the first coffee house were founded.
However, apart from this historical event the widespread consumption of coffee and the opening of the cafés can be traced back to the time of the Ottoman Empire.
Coffee became more and more popular and the opening of many of these coffeehouses enabled a rich exchange. Thus, the introduction of coffee not only brought a nice drink to Tunisian, it was rather a ground for new customs, culture and social gathering.
The Café became a place of exchange, a place where people meet and also a place to pursue the one thoughts and relax.
There is a distinctly Tunisian morning coffee-ritual that takes place daily after Fajr, the pre-sunrise prayers. The worshipper enter the café next door take the newspaper, sit with a group of friends and cultivate their relationships through coffee and croissants.
And even later in the day poets were sitting next to students, laymen’s, worshipper and politicians. Men where sitting together smoking Hookah and playing Backgammon. It became a place where everybody learns from everybody.
The richness of the exchange and the importance of spending time in the café is the reason why “Malouf Tunsi” a genre of melodious poetry was cultivated in the coffee house environment.
Therefore sitting in a café doesn’t take time it rather enriches the day for about three hours.
Take a coffee, absorb and enrich your surrounding and enjoy your day.